Before we even needed it the promise, the covenant, had been made.
The word covenant (Hebrew, berith) occurs over 250 times in the
Old Testament, and more than 150 times it refers to the covenant which
God made with Israel at Sinai. God often calls it “My covenant.” The word
itself means a bond, a compact, an agreement, a treaty or a solemn pledge.
Covenants between individuals were commonly formed by neighbors in the
ancient world. These were called bilateral parity covenants, or covenants
between equals. “I’ll do this and you’ll do that.” For example Abraham
and Abimelech made a covenant in Genesis 21 and Jacob made one with Laban
in chapter 31.
There were also unilateral covenants, typically between a king and his
subjects. The Sinai covenant is usually classified in this category. At
Horeb, the mountain of God, Israel was incorporated as a theocracy under
God’s direct rule. He was their King, pledging them support and protection.
Why a Covenant?
There is considerable evidence that God had a plan, long before sin ever
originated, of what He would do if any of His creatures ever decided to
rebel against Him. This was the very first covenant, a promise that God
made to Himself. According to Scripture it was:
4“kept secret from the foundation of the
world.” Matt 13:35
4“prepared…from the foundation of the world.” Matt 25:34
4“chosen…before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4
4“foreordained before the foundation of the world.” 1 Peter 1:20
A plan to deal with sin and rebellion was formulated in the mind of God
“before the foundation of the world.” God decided that He would deal personally
with such a crisis. “Before all things…it pleased the Father that in him
[Christ] should all fullness dwell.” That Jesus should take the role of
“Son” and become “the head of the body, the church…the beginning, the
first born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.”
Col 1:17-19. As “the image of the invisible God” Jesus would be the creative
and redemptive agent of the God-head. Verse 15. “For by him were all things
created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.”
Verse 16; John 1:3.
Then, if sin should ever arise, Christ, though “in the form of God,”
would make “himself of no reputation” and take “upon him the form of a
servant” and become “made in the likeness of men.” Phil 2:6, 7. Then “by
the obedience of One” many would “be made righteous.” Rom 5:19. Jesus
would then humble himself and become “obedient unto death, even the death
of the cross,” Phil 2:8, that “through the blood of his cross” He might
“reconcile all things unto himself.” Col 1:20.
Thus, because He “gave himself a ransom for all,” Christ would then become
the “one mediator between God and men.” 1 Tim. 2:5,6. This plan was “the
wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained
before the world.” 1 Cor. 2:7.
What would God do? Allow Himself to be “despised and rejected
of men,” to bear “our griefs, and carry our sorrows” Isa 53:3,4, take
our sins upon himself, 1Pet 2:24, then “pour out his soul unto death,”
making “intercession for the transgressors,” making “his grave with the
wicked” and become “cut off out of the land of the living.” Verses 12,
10, 9, 8. He would then “raise again the third day” and “sit at the right
hand of God in heaven” to be our “Advocate with the Father” being “faithful
and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
1 John 2:1;1:9.
What would man do? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” “Repent
and be baptized” Acts 2:38, be “crucified with Christ” Gal. 2:20, “not
henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them” 2 Cor.
5:15, “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” Acts 2:38, “cleanse ourselves
from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the
fear of God” 2 Cor. 7:1, “bringing into captivity every thought to the
obedience of Christ” 2 Cor. 10:5, by resting in Him “which has begun a
good work in you” “to will and to do of his good pleasure” “until the
day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6; 2:13.
This plan is the gospel, the “good news” of salvation from sin. It involves
three “R’s”: Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration.
4God’s original plan for man was ruined
4God revealed His plan to redeem man by dying for
4God regenerates us with His Spirit into new creatures.
This has always been His plan from before the foundation of the world.
It is His Everlasting Gospel and the basis of all covenants.
The Old Covenant
What was the old covenant? Just how old is it? Most Christians think
of Moses and the Ten Commandments given at Sinai when the subject of the
Old Covenant comes up. After they escaped from Egypt, Israel promised
to keep the law-“all” that God had said, and God promised to bless them,
make them a “holy nation” and “a light to the Gentiles.” But the Bible
mentions several other covenants between God and man that were given long
When Adam “transgressed the covenant” Hosea 6:7 margin, God promised
the Seed of the woman to bruise the head of the serpent Genesis 3:15.
The theme of the Everlasting Covenant is the Seed. This Seed was later
promised to Abraham. This “Seed is Christ” Gal. 3:16. Jesus would become
the Second Adam. He would one day suffer and die at the hand of the serpent’s
seed, that generation of vipers (Luke 3:7), who were of their father the
devil (John 8:44), that old serpent the devil (Revelation 12:.9).
Adam’s sin was not only against God, but also against his descendants.
Hosea 6 compares his sin with that of Ephraim and Judah as “treachery,
robbery, and murder” verse 9. As Adam’s sin lead to the death of all mankind,
he was guilty of bringing death to his offspring as well as himself (6th
commandment), of robbing them (8th) and their descendents (3rd) of an
eternal rest with their Creator (4th). When Eve “saw the fruit that it
was good,” she coveted it (10th); when she believed the serpent’s lie
(9th) to “become as gods,” she also broke the first commandment. God had
spoken His commands to the pair directly (2nd) and expected them to honor
Him with respect for His authority (5th). Every aspect of the covenant
was broken by their disobedience.
When Jesus made “coats of skins and clothed them” Genesis 3:21, He was
demonstrating that He would one day die for us and clothe us with His
righteousness. There in Eden, Jesus promised to be “the Lamb slain from
the foundation of the world.” Rev 13:8. The first animals were sacrificed
to cover the results of Adam’s sin. The last Sacrifice would take away
“the sin of the world.” John 1:29.
After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah promising “never again”
to destroy the earth by water. “I establish my covenant with you,
and with your seed after you, and with every living creature,” God said.
Again, the covenant was unconditional.
Then He gave a sign. “I do set my bow in the cloud, and
it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the
earth…the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature”
Signs frequently sealed a covenant.
Rahab demanded “a true token” from the two spies as they vowed
an oath of mutual protection. “Our life for yours,” they promised. Isn’t
that the gospel! By dying on the cross, Jesus says to us, “My life
for yours.” Then the spies specified the sign: Rahabs “scarlet line
in the window” (Joshua 2:12,21). The same scarlet rope that delivered
the spies out the window, also delivered Rahab and her family from destruction.
And Rahab moved from the Red light district to the Red line
ancestory of Jesus.
Gideonrequested a sign to prove God’s promise of making him a
military hero. “If I have found favor in your sight,” he told the
angel of the Lord, “then show me a sign that you are talking with me”
(Judges 6:17). So the angel consumed the food Gideon presented him
and disappeared. But Gideon wanted more signs, like wet fleece surrounded
by dry ground, and then just to make sure, he asked for dry fleece and
wet ground. Even that wasn’t enough. Gideon had to sneak down and overhear
a Mideanite dream before he was fully convinced God would do what He promised
4The seed covenant had its sign—sacrificial
4The flood covenant has its sign—the rainbow
Covenant or Contract?
Some confuse these unconditional divine covenants with a human contract.
Contracts are drawn up for almost anything today. They contain a lot of
legal party-of-the-first-part and party-of-the-second-part language. Mutual
obligations and responsibilities are laid
out; and termination-revocation clauses provide a way
out if non-performance or breach of contract occurs. For example,
an employment contract defines how an employer and employee will interact
over a term of service, the agreed upon salary-benefit package, and job
description. But a covenant is quite different.
The marriage covenant, for example, is entered into between a husband
and wife for life. It is based on commitments, entered into
with promised vows. “She is your companion and the wife of your covenant”
(Malachai 2:14). Sadly, too many marriage partners treat their covenants
like contracts; obligations rather than promises. Even pre-nuptial
agreements are the order of the day. Instead of embracing their covenant
vow “for better or worse”, the attitude that often prevails is more like
“for better or forget it”.
But Paul reminded the belivers at Corinth, “I have espoused you to one
husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Cor.
We are “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2).
“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones…
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
“For your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and your
Redeemer the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 54:5).
This explains the unwritten bond of parental loyalty between a father
and son that Jesus employed in parable form. The prodigal son still remains
close to the heart of the father who waits daily for his return and eagerly
runs to meet him while “he was yet a great way off” (Luke 15:20). In
stark contrast is the amazing attitude of his older brother, regarding
himself as no more than a hired employee “serving” his father “these many
years.” He confused his birthright covenant with a workman’s contract.
After two unconditional covenants, God made two conditional ones.
God made a covenant with Abram (“exalted father”), promising to give
him and his descendants “all the land of Canaan.”
This land covenant is closely related to the seed covenant.
“I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah
an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my
servants shall dwell there” (Isaiah 65:9).
This promise had just one condition: faith.
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness”
(Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3).
And Abrham believed God was able to do the impossible, and God called
him His friend.
God promised a home for the “seed” of Abraham that would be as
numerous as the sands of the sea, the stars of heaven and the dust of
God said, “Look up at the stars” (Genesis 15:5).
4Every time you see the stars, remember My
4When you look at all the sand at the sea
shore, remember My promise.
4When you see the rainbow, remember My promise.
4When you see the blood of your sacrifice,
remember My promise.
To commemorate the occasion, God changed his name to Abraham “father of
a multitude” (verse 5) and his wife’s name to Sarah “mother of nations”
This was too much. “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed” (verse
This is incredible! How can a child be born to a hundred year old man?
And do you really think that 90 year old Sarah is going to have a child
now? She is not only “stricken with age” but also post-menopausal,
or as the Scripture puts it: “ceased to be after the manner of women”
(Genesis 18:11). So God said, Laugh if you will, but this time next
year Sarah will give birth to a son and you will call his hame “laugher”
or Isaac, the child of promise (Genesis 17:19).
God had said “I will establish My covenant, I will keep My promise, between
Me and you and your descendants for an everlasting
covenant” (verse 7).
The Promise? The Land of Promise…home for his Seed.
The Condition? Faith in God.
God said, “This is my covenant which you and your decendants shall keep:
Every male child (born or bought)… as a token or sign of the covenant
between Me and you…shall be circumcised” (verses 10-12). Ouch.
Wait a minute. How can “the covenent of circumcision” (Acts 7:8)
be everlasting? It’s not a Christian requirement today. Yes, circumcision
was a hot topic as the gospel
was going to the gentiles. But it was clearly dismissed at the Council
of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Yet the sign
Not long ago I was trustingly awarded the honour of performing this minor
surgery on my first grandchild. Half way through the ordeal I was
forcefuly reminded that this procedure is most decidedly one way. There
is no changing your mind in midstream. There is an utter sense of finality
and irreversability that descends on all who witness the bloody spectacle.
And cutting off the foreskin seems such an arbitrary ritual. Just
like not eating from a perfectly good-looking tree, or resting on a specified
day of the week, or washing seven
times in the Jordon river,
or putting water in clay jars,
or casting your nets on the other
side of the boat. Why is God so arbitrary? If He wanted a physical
mark why not simply require a tatoo? Why such mutilation? And why
only on defenseless baby boys, or even worse, grown men?
Long Term Commitment
God clearly intended this rite to convey a deep spiritual meaning of
long term commitment, undying loyalty, everlasting dedication. And
although the health benefits of circumcision continue to be disputed,
there is no question about the absolute permanence conveyed on the recipient. It
is this notion of commitment and permanent decision that God wants. That’s
why God pleaded with wayward Israel, “Circumcise yourselves to me, and
take away the foreskins of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4). Paul
repeated the same idea: “Real Jews are Jews because of what is
inside them, not because of anything done to their external flesh; likewise,
real circumcision is of the heart” (Romans 2:29). The covenant
commitment goes to the core of our being; deep down, deep down in my heart. The
marriage covenant says “until death do us part.” But our magnificent God
transends death. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” He says.
(Jeremiah 23:40). God plays for keeps.
4 His ways are everlasting (Habakuk
4His mercy endures forever (Psalm
4His name (Psalm 72:17), His righteousness
His judgements, and His truth (Psalm 117:2)
4His throne is forever (Psalm 45:6).
4His word is settled forever (Psalm
119:89; 1 Peter 1:25).
4He reigns forever (Psalm 146:10)
4because He lives forever (Daniel
12:7; Revelation 4:9,10; 5:14; 10:6)
4to ever make intercession for us (Hebrews
4whatever He does is done forever (Ecclesiates
4He is the same yesterday, and today, and
forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Is it any wonder then that He remembers
His covenant forever? (Psalm 105:8, 111:8,9). “Know therefore
that the Lord your God… is the faithful God, which keeps
covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments
to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Isaiah 24 describes the world at the end of time, after Jesus appears
to redeem his faithful children, after the rejectors of His mercy are
destroyed “by the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), when
“the Lord makes the earth empty…and turns it upside down…because they
have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting
covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5).
The everlasting covenant is the same one promised to Adam and
Eve, to Abraham,
...to Isaac and Jacob, to the freed children of Israel at Sinai, to David,
...to the returning exiles through Ezra and Nehemiah,
...to the apostles and believers in Christ—the same presented by Moses.
“All of you stand this day before the Lord your God…that you should enter
into covenant with the Lord and into His oath…that He may establish
you today for a people unto Himself, and that He may be to you a God,
as He has said unto you and as He has sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. And not only to you do I make this covenant and this
oath, but also with those that are not here with us this day.” (Deuteronomy
29:10-15). He’s talking about us! God embraced the entire human family
with His everlasting covenant.
God wants to hammer home not only the idea of everlasting loyalty, but
also the concept of letting Him
do all the work. So He set a precedent at the very beginning. After
creating a perfect world for Adam and Eve, He invited them to begin their
first full day with Him in celebrating the fruits of His labor
as He rested from His work.
The sign of the Seed covenant was the sacrificial blood. “When
I see the blood…I will pass over you.”
The sign for the Flood Covenant was the rainbow. And
God said, “When I see the bow in the clouds, I will remember
the everlasting covenant for it is the token
of the covenant which I have established” (Genesis 9:15-17).
The sign of the Land Covenant is a circumcised heart.
The sign for the Creator’s Covenant is the Sabbath. And
God said, when you see the seventh day, “Remember
the Sabbath… for in six days I made heaven and earth, the sea and all
that in them is” (Exodus 20:11).
“My sabbath is a sign between
Me and you forever, a perpetual
covenant that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you”
(Exodus 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12) who sets you apart for a special relationship
with Me as “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9; Deuteronomy 7:6).
The Sabbath is the day of worship because worship is what creatures
give their creator. The twenty-four elders in heaven “fall down before
Him that sat on the throne and worship
Him… saying, You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor
and power, for you have created
all things” (Revelation 4:11).
And worship is the real
issue in the cosmic conflict between good and evil. Just before the
second coming of Christ (Revelation 14:14-19) a showdown over worship
confronts the entire world (Revelation 13:3,8,16; 14:6). Revelation chapter
13 describes the world worshipping
a beast who deceives the inhabitants of earth (verse 14), who “kills with
the sword” (verses 4, 8, 12, 15, 10) and who threatens death to those
who refuse to worship him (verse
15). Revelation chapter 14 describes a message of “the everlasting
gospel” (verse 6) going to the entire world, a call to “worship
Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters”
(verse 7; cf Exodus 20:11). What a contrast! Worship a deceiving
destroyer or worship the Creator.
Sadly, there are some who believe and teach that part of God’s Everlasting
Covenant has been nullified, abolished, done away, removed, nailed to
Where does this idea come from?
Paul reminded the Colossian believers that they were once “alienated
and enemies” of God in their minds. Colossians 1:21. But
now because of the “fullness of Christ” and His all sufficiency has “reconciled
them” to make them “complete in Him” by circumcising them “without hands,”
they were “buried with Him in baptism” and now were “made alive together
with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” Colossians 2:9-13. Then
he writes these famous words: “Having wiped out the handriting of requirements
that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out
of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Compare Ephesians 2
Once you “were by nature the children of wrath” “without Christ, being
aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants
of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians
2:3, 12). But “in Christ Jesus you [Gentiles] who were sometimes far off
are brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Jesus
died, not just for the Jewish nation, not just for the “commonwealth of
Israel”; He died for the whole world “that whosoever believes in Him should
Jesus “abolished in His flesh the enmity
[or hostility against], the law of commandments contained in ordinances
in order to make in Himself from two[Jews and Gentiles] one new man [Christians]”
(Ephesians 2:15) “that He might reconcile both [Gentiles and Jews] unto
God in one body [Christians] by the cross having slain the enmity”
What did Jesus abolish?. It was the enmity. “Because the carnal mind
is enmity against God” (Romans
Jesus didn’t abolish the law of God, only the hostility
(the enmity) that our natural human natures have aginst
After repeated wandering in the wilderness and wandering away from God,
wandering after other gods and outright rebellion—God said, “I will make
a new covenant with my people…” (Jeremiah 31:33).
“The first covenant had ordinances
of divine service” and a sanctuary which contained “the ark
of the covenant” and inside which lay “the tables
of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:1-4).
Both old and new covenants focus on God’s law; the difference is only
one of location. No longer would it be written on stone lying in
a golden box. He moved it to a new location. The law is now internalized.
“I will put my laws inside them, and write it on their hearts” (Hebrews,
Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26,27). David said, “Your law is within
my heart.” Psalm 40:8.
Instead of depending on human promises, and a human priest, and animal
sacrifices, and an external law written on tables of stone, the new covenant
is “a better covenant which
was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). Jesus became our
High Priest, our Sacrifice, offering His own blood, and promised to send
the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to write His character, the law, on the
tables of our hearts.
The new covenant (NT) is an extension and improvement of the old covenant
(OT); it builds on it. Together they are God’s everlasting covenant.
Now “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and I can “fulfill the law of Christ”